Jane Jones, Contract Attorney

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Working as a contract attorney has both pros and cons, just like any other attorney. Some of the pros include having a variety of work and having compensation that is tied to their hours. Some of the cons include a lower average salary compared to regular attorneys and less prestige than regular attorneys have.

Contract attorneys enjoy various benefits that regular attorneys may lack, such having a variety of work and having compensation that is tied to the number of hours they work. That being said, there are some downsides to becoming a solo practitioner, including a lower average salary and less prestige compared to regular full-time attorneys. All in all, you should weigh your options and consider becoming a contract attorney if it is the right fit for you.

1. Why did you decide to work as a contract attorney?

Because it was the only job I could get.

2. What is the best part of working as a contract attorney?

Working as a contract attorney is not a good job. You get a paycheck, which is the reason to do it.

3. What is the worst part of working as a contract attorney?

No benefits, low pay, no professional development, no respect (by the placing agency). The agency will tell you that they have health benefits available, but the price is exactly what you would pay on the open market as an individual buyer of health benefits; therefore, as a practical matter, they should simply be honest and say they don't provide health benefits.

4. What advice would you give to others looking to become a contract attorney?

Look assiduously while working as a contract attorney. Do not stay long. It is better to have no experience on your resume than to experience the stigma of saying you were a contract attorney.

5. What is a typical day like for you as a contract attorney?

Review a lot of documents. Every once in a while, one of your coworkers will simply indicate that he or she has reviewed a day's worth of documents while not having reviewed them at all. Because there are large numbers of people doing the same work, the quota will be the metric by which you are measured.

6. How does your experience as a contract attorney compare with your peers who chose other sorts of jobs?

It is worse. When an employer hires a full-time employee, the employer wants to develop that employee. When an employer hires a contract attorney, the employer wants to plug a person into filling a particular need at a particular moment.

My coworker doing document review obtained a settlement for wage and hour violations. His argument was that he exercised no professional judgment whatsoever, and should not be classified as a professional employee. He obtained a settlement, as I said.

When people had problems with their paychecks, etc., they were too afraid to complain. Although employer abuse tends to occur at the lowest rungs of the wage ladder, as a contract attorney, you are aware that you can be terminated at any time for any reason or no reason at all. Even in states with at-will employment, as a practical matter, most employers do provide some sort of due process when firing an employee. Being a contract attorney is like working as a temp in any other industry. A person can, and often does, receive a call at 10 p.m. telling him or her not to come in the next day and that someone else will be picking up his or her belongings.

I worked as a temporary contract attorney for 2 years on one job and on several other shorter term assignments. I received a completion bonus from the first assignment. As a contract attorney, I was fairly "successful." The only benefit is that you do meet other people in your field. In that you are all in the same boat (the same crappy job), you often bond with your coworkers.

But make no mistake, it is NOT a good job. In any case, it is almost irrefutable that contract attorney employment is not viewed as favorably as having a permanent job on one's resume, and I don't think you will find anyone that can honestly tell you otherwise.

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Please see the following articles for more information about nontraditional law jobs and alternative ways to use your law degree:

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